Mighty No. 9: Kevin Schaller Interviews Producer Nick Yu

On the last day of E3, I managed a sit-down with Nick Yu from Comcept, the producer of Mighty No. 9. After playing and finally working my way through the very first boss—which took multiple continues that morning, and even more the previous day when I tried the game first—we sat down for a conversation about the game, the influences behind it, and laughed at how difficult the game can get. That is, even though I (and everyone else) was apparently playing on the lowest difficulty setting.

So here it is, my interview with Nick Yu!

GameRevolution: How long have you been working with Inafune?

Nick Yu: Four years, at Tokyo Game Show. So TGS was my first day of work.

GR: Wow, TGS was first day of work?

Nick Yu: Very first day of work. TGS has two business days and two public days, the public days you just can’t even move.

GR: So that was your first day, you haven’t worked on a Mega Man game before, or… I’m sorry!

Nick Yu: I wasn’t ex-Capcom or anything like that. I wasn’t even in the industry before that.

GR: You haven’t worked on any other titles before Mighty No. 9?

Nick Yu: No games. Before this one I was working on Yaiba, the Ninja Gaiden Z (comic) so I was the Associate Producer on that title. But this is my first time as a solo producer.

GR: Are you still working on various aspects of (Mighty No. 9), or is the title pretty much done? Are you working on other titles?

Nick Yu: Our company is kind of weird… we’re the kind of company where we create ideas, so right now this is the project that is moving. It’s in production, all that stuff. But there are several different other products that are not exactly moving, but they might move. So I have a couple projects that are coming up for me. But at this point, this is the only thing that’s in production.

GR: Were you a Mega Man player beforehand?

Nick Yu: Yes. *chuckles* Well, some people say that answer is not good, but I was an X series player. At least 1-3 I played a lot. And then I played… (GBA) Zero series, the action ones. And I think X-3 is my favorite of the Mega Man series. They’re the ones I played with my friends for ten or twelve hours.

 

We saw this rumor in magazines saying that if you don’t save the whole game, not even using the save once, you get to use Zero’s sword. “Is that true? You know what, let’s test it!” And it was true. And you actually get Zero’s sword at the very end.

GR: Can you play through the rest of the game with Zero’s sword then?

Nick Yu: You only get that at the very end of the game. You only get to play one full new stage with that sword. But you can actually go back to other stages… I think. I can’t remember for sure, but it was just very [cool].

GR: That actually takes care of my question of which one’s your favorite of the series! Did you take some of the X inspiration into Mighty No. 9? Because I saw the dash was in there, but the mechanic was upgraded.

Nick Yu: Well when we were making this title, Inafune has always been a fan of action games, and he’s been making action games all his time. We didn’t exactly think about Mega Man while we were making this game; what we thought about is making a classical 2D platformer that would bring us back into the old days, but just doing [that] is just a copy of an already-stuffed genre.

 

So what we did was bring in this absorption-dash mechanic that speeds up the game’s tempo and pace, really by a lot. You’re kinda constantly dashing and moving forward, you’re not stopping. Compared to the old action games, you actually want to keep your distance between enemies and yourself, and attack them from a safe distance. Play it safe.

But in this game we want players to get up-close and personal with enemies, and always have that risk-versus-reward experience. That’s the kind of basic concept of this game.

GR: That would explain why you can still defeat enemies by shooting from afar, but you get that extra bit by dashing and clearing them out a lot faster.

Nick Yu: Yes. And by absorbing the enemies fast, once you get them stunned, you’ll actually absorb their power for a little bit of time. When you see the 90% or 100% popping up when absorbing, that means the speed it took you to absorb the enemy, and the higher the percentage, the longer the abilities will last.

GR: Were there any specific titles then that influenced Mighty No. 9 at all?

Nick Yu: Not really, we really wanted to reinvent 2D-style platformers. But if you use too many references, you’ll kind of just end up copying, right? So you have to think outside the box and don’t think about other games, but think about what you want to show, what you want to make, so in that sense we didn’t use too many references. So we just thought about that makes 2D classical platformers unique, what makes people want to play them. And the basic is, it’s easy to understand and it’s easy to get into, but it takes a lot of challenge and lots of time to get better.

GR: That was about to ask, what there a goal to make it… I don’t want to say “extremely difficult,” but extremely challenging right from the get-go?

Nick Yu: I think the difficulty level we have for the normal gameplay is… it’s fair. I’m not going to say it’s easy, it’s definitely not! But it’s fair enough so that the old players can get satisfied, and that for new players it’s easy enough for them to get into. We always hear this: they want more difficulty, they want challenges, so we gave them that. We have four difficulty levels, which is Normal, Hard, Hyper, and Maniac.

And for Maniac, the game itself is hard, but you will actually die with just one shot. Any kind of damage you take, you’ll die. Right there. We have seen people doing No Death Run or No Damage Run in other types of action games, so we’re like “Why don’t we make this simple for them?” So this is a system that you can just use it, that one shot and you’re dead!

GR: So you had YouTube Gaming and Twitch in mind then!

Nick Yu: Definitely. People who like to play these types of games, I think it’s safe to say everyone wants to show off their skills. YouTube or Twitch, whatever media you want to name. So we actually made this results screen that will show how many times you got hit, how many enemies you killed, what your combo chain is, your rank on the overall stage, the time it took you to clear the stage—all that stuff people want to know in speed runs or any kind of challenges. So we made it simple for them. Anything you want to know is there, you don’t need any external hardware or software, you’ll get that at the very end of the stage.

GR: I know the original goal for release was for major consoles—​PS4, PS3, Xbox One. I did see it’s also going to the 3DS and Vita. For the portable consoles with the touchscreen element and I guess for the Wii U as well, is there any specific feature that would take advantage of those capabilities?

Nick Yu: Well, originally we thought it would be a simple porting. Turns out, it’s not. That’s why those two are getting delayed a little bit. And from what I’m hearing so far, definitely we are going to take advantage of the two screens of the 3DS, and I haven’t heard anything about Vita yet, but we’re definitely thinking about using what’s unique about that hardware.

GR: There’s been talk about franchising the character, franchising the series itself. I read recently that there was an animated series that was picked up. Can you please elaborate on that?

Nick Yu: For the animation series, that’s not exactly our project, even though that’s our IP and we’re supporting them. That’s lit by a completely different company, and it’s a different project. So at this point I don’t have anything I can offer to anybody. We announced that almost a year ago at Anime Expo 2014, and we haven’t said anything about that project since. So I know people are wondering what’s going on with that, and I’m sorry I can’t say much, but what I can say is it’s still happening, there’s still something going on, and hopefully we can announce some kind of stuff soon.

GR: Can I ask if you have direct influence on that, or does that company have more control?

Nick Yu: Everything that they do comes through us. We get the approval rights and powers for sure. And Inafune will be watching over that project for sure. He’s always been a fan of anime and multimedia content, it’s always been his dream. He wants to make anime, movies, manga, anything from his IP.

GR: Have you been able to play anything on the E3 floor yet?

Nick Yu: Unfortunately no! *laughs* During my three days I’ve only had about one hour to look around, and in one hour you can’t even get into line in time, right? So… every year it’s like this. It’s a pity.

GR: Are you working on any other projects you can talk about?

Nick Yu: This year’s E3 we announced… I’m not in that team, but we announced a title called Recore, a Microsoft exclusive. That’s something we’ve been working on for quite some time, and finally we can announce that now. And we’ve been receiving some good feedback from the general community.

GR: It looks really interesting! Because it was just a trailer, can I ask if it’s more a puzzle-oriented title, or more of an action game?

Nick Yu: From what I know, once we release the gameplay—I don’t know when—people will see that that trailer is showing a lot of the gameplay and a lot about the game itself. So whatever you can salvage from that trailer, it will be there in the gameplay. That’s all I can say.

Kevin: That’s about all I’ve got! After getting some time to play Mighty No. 9 it took me six or seven continues to beat the first boss robot, which I guess brings me to my last question… have you beaten Mighty No. 9?

Nick: *laughs* I haven’t. This is not an excuse, I’m just way too busy to play the game, just sit there and play through. I really want to, I see my assistant doing that, and I’m like “NO! I want to play!” I could have done that earlier, but not anymore.

Kevin: Thank you for letting me speak to you today!

Nick: No problem!

My thanks to Nick Yu for the interview! Mighty No. 9 is set to release September 15th, 2015. I’ll be preparing my side-scrolling skills for that day!